Month after opening, Rohnert Park casino's impact hotly debated

  • Blackjack is played by customers at the Graton Resort and Casino, Friday Dec. 6, 2013 in Rohnert Park. The casino has been open for more than a month. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

A month after the Graton Resort & Casino opened to applause and trepidation and uncertainty, early reports likely provide fodder for both critics and supporters of the 3,000-slot-machine casino on Rohnert Park's flank.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said the casino is a busier site for law enforcement activity than the department had planned for.

After horrendous opening-day backups, traffic volume has returned to normal and uneventful levels, surprising law enforcement and even longtime casino foes.

And some local businesses report that the $800 million casino seems to be responsible for an uptick in economic activity.

"Are we waiting for the other shoe to drop? Maybe. I don't know," said Rohnert Park Councilman Jake Mackenzie, "but I'd have to say at the moment that there has not been a negative impact on the city of Rohnert Park."

The casino's opponents, who are still fighting it in court, scoff at that notion, pointing to what the Sheriff's Office is reporting.

Between the Nov. 5 opening and Thursday, deputies assigned to the casino site have responded to about 200 calls on casino grounds, said Sheriff's Lt. Steve Brown.

Those incidents have led to 34 reports being taken and 16 arrests, he said.

"The increase in incidents ... clearly shows that casinos create crime, or at least drag it along with them," said Marilee Montgomery, a leader of the Stop Graton Casino group.

"This is a rural area where there were previously very few incidents, maybe one a year in that location, if that. Now, there have been 200 incidents in one month," she said. "It will only get worse over time."

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